May 26, 2021
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) — A teenager from Texas who was shot and paralyzed is crediting a Colorado surgeon for giving him back the use of his left arm. The 18 year old had a complicated surgery at Swedish Medical Center that also relieved his excruciating pain.
Aaron Assiter can make a fist and straighten his hand. He can move his wrist down and back. Movement most take for granted is a major milestone for Aaron.
“It’s awesome,” he said.
Nine months ago, he was unsure if he’d ever be able to use his left arm again.
“No feeling, no movement, no nothing, ” Aaron told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
On Aug. 25, 2020, Aaron was shot in the neck and paralyzed near his home in Lubbock, Texas. He’d been involved in a drug deal and violence erupted.
“Being a stupid 17, 18 year old... that led to where I am now,” he said.
Aaron was flown to Colorado and Craig Hospital for rehabilitation. His arm started giving him horrible nerve pain.
“Made getting shot feel like a tickle,” Aaron said.
He was referred to surgeon Dr. Ryan Endress with the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Swedish Hospital.
“This bullet fragment here was compressing that nerve,” said Endress referring to Aaron’s scan.
The nerve is part of the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. Aaron is the first patient to undergo a brachial plexus repair at Swedish.
CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews Aaron Assiter. (credit: CBS)
Under a microscope, Endress carefully removed scarring and the bullet fragment. Then in another surgery, he replaced damaged nerves.
“We actually borrowed healthy working nerves from other muscles and transplanted those,” said Endress.
“Dr. Endress blessed me,” said Aaron.
He said his pain has been reduced by 75% to 80%. He still has a bullet fragment in his spine keeping him from walking, but he’s grateful he’s come this far.
“I cannot thank you enough,” Aaron told Endress as he firmly shook his hand.